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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Plotting

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Daw had an interesting discussion over at her blog on plotting.

Since I outline, my plot questions tend to get answered before I write the narrative. But it got me to wondering what it is I do to get my answers.

As I mentioned before in previous posts about outlining, there are certain conclusions I want each of my characters to reach. In doing so, both protagonist and antagonist must face obstacles. That defines the conflicts, but not the plot.

Plot, at least the way I understand it, is the journey the main characters make to reach an inevitable conclusion. Plot employs conflict and tension, but conflict and tension by themselves are not plot.

When I plot my novels, I start very simply. I start out with a problem or question that has to be answered. As the outline (or story) develops, the plot deepens because I get to know my characters very well. I know their Achilles heel(s) and their strengths and I deliberately challenge them with conflicts that will test their strengths and weaknesses, while all along moving the story forward.

Looking at it as a journey is perhaps the easiest way to visualize plot. I start here and I end up there. How did I get there? There's my plot.

Tricks for plotting:

• Pan out before you dig in. Like a movie director, look at the big picture first. It will give you a solid foundation.
• Make notes on how you want your characters to change. If the mc is a brooding loner, how does he end up a family man? Detailing the challenges that change him play into the plot.
• Follow through on your threads. A pet peeve of mine is when writers send me off on tangents. The reader needs a beginning, a middle and an end to scenes, chapters, and threads. If you do this, you'll end up with a solid plot for the whole novel.

I'm a big fan of workshops. Here's an online one for plotting that's coming in November.

Permission to forward or share granted
Put Your Characters in the Driver's Seat
Dates: November 4 - 30, 2007
Instructor: Sharon Mignerey
Cost: FREE to FTHRW members; $20.00 for all others Registration
Deadline:October 26, 2007
For more information or to register for this class go here.

Course Description:
Plotting Strategy - Put your Characters in the Driver's Seat
Characters, not plot, drive a story forward. If you've ever received a rejection to the effect of "this story seems contrived" or "your characters don't seem real" this workshop is just for you. This workshop includes the following modules, each with exercises applicableto your current work.

1. Finding the relationship among events, plot, and characters.
2. Getting to know your characters.
3. Jumping into the conflict.
4. Figuring out the narrative focus
5. Putting it all in scenes
6. Adding emotion, then stirring well.
7. Putting your characters in the driver's seat.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post, Maria.

The other thing I'd say about plot is that it's better if all the events are causally connected rather than just one damn thing after another.

daw

Maria Zannini said...

Very true. On your blog you also mentioned how much easier it was writing fanfic because you knew those characters so intimately.

I think that's pivotal in building a good plot.

Switching back and forth between stories also creates a catalyst of sorts. It feeds each other.